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So proud to serve

07:10 23 February 2013

Email your letters to andrew.keeble@archant.co.uk or write to us at Opinion, North Devon Gazette, Unit 3, Old Station Road, Barnstaple, EX32 8PB. Please keep letters to maximum of 300 words and also include your name, address and contact telephone number.

Email your letters to andrew.keeble@archant.co.uk or write to us at Opinion, North Devon Gazette, Unit 3, Old Station Road, Barnstaple, EX32 8PB. Please keep letters to maximum of 300 words and also include your name, address and contact telephone number.

Archant

In 1996, along with a fellow councillor and old school chum, Stewart Alexander, we took it on ourselves to ensure some form of honour was bestowed locally on the US Regiments that had been based in Exmouth prior to the D-Day invasion.

After serious planning and considering official details and East Devon District Council permission, the first of our ideas came to fruition and the 531st Tribute Fund was born.

For 16 years, the fund continued to raise money for local good causes: Rolle Medical Partnership, Exmouth Hospital, Ex-Service Associations, seriously ill local children, local sea cadets and many other deserving groups and individuals, some of whom asked to remain anonymous.

We held some of the biggest parades ever seen in Exmouth to honour our D-Day veterans and veterans of all theatres of war. We were one of the very first towns to honour the Merchant Navy by having their logo carved alongside the armed forces on the Wall of Remembrance. We were the first to build a memorial to remember those killed on September 11, 2001; Exmouth families lost three on that horrendous day.

Along with Orchard Memorials, we collated all the names of Exmouth’s war dead from 1914 to the present, many were available via author Eric Delderfield’s records, but more were provided via service records and private individuals and until 2012 we financed the last names that have been recorded on The Strand memorial.

Many, many good things came out of those 16 years and the fund owes a great debt of gratitude to all the committee members that made my chairmanship throughout so very much on of pride.

Throughout all this time, the Exmouth Journal has supported and publicised all we have done and without them our job would have been so much harder and may even have shortened considerably our efforts to help and honour so many.

Ill health, unfortunately, brought it all to an end for me, and the rest of the crew decided not to go ahead without me, so all we have done and tried to do has now come to a close, including any further names that, God forbid, may need to be honoured in The Strand. The people of Exmouth have been tremendously supportive and helped us to raise in excess of £120,000, build four memorials and many other wonderful deeds.

Thank you all for 16 very memorable years, I will miss the June events and everyone who supported us but, alas, all good things must come to an end though I wish it could have continued. Exmouth should be very proud of what they did to raise the funds, we only provided a committee to serve you.

Lionel R Howell

Exmouth

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